- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Going to Florida in the middle of July screams vacation.
However, this will not be the case for the Southern Maryland Shockers 16-and-Under softball team when they travel to Kissimmee, Fla. as United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Class A state fastpitch state champions.
So when the Shockers land in Florida for the USSSA 16U Class A World Series from July 19-26, a vacation is the last thing on their minds.
“It’s going to be softball,” Chopticon Braves rising senior Courtney Taft said. “I’m there to play.”
The Shockers, under the coaching of head coach Bobby Rawlings and assistant coach Chuck Donaldson, clinched the Maryland state title on June 22 at the Bachman Sports Complex in Glen Burnie with a 6-0 win over Maryland Black Ice to complete a 3-0 tournament. The Shockers, the tournament’s top seed, defeated Black Ice in the winner’s bracket final, 6-4, as well, and defeated the Frederick Heartbreakers, 4-1, in second-round play.
“Chuck and I have been preaching to them for four years now that it’s all about pitching and defense,” Rawlings said. “We preach that to them that, with our defense, let teams put the ball in play and see what happens. It’s all about pitching and defense with us.”
It was pitching that led the way for the Shockers as pitchers Alyssa Bilodeau and Lori Sturgill (rising senior, McDonough) combined to only allow two walks through the entire tournament.
“We talk about not walking anybody because we always say that if you walk a batter, it’s easier for them to score,” said Bilodeau, a rising junior at La Plata. “For us as pitchers, we try our hardest and put everything that we have into it. When we have that team behind us, we just try to do our jobs ... We just do what we have to do and we know that we have players behind us to pick up our backs if not.”
Samantha Donaldson (rising junior, McDonough) got a front-row seat to the pitching from her shortstop and second-base positions.
“The pitching, I know her [Sturgill] pitching, so knowing what she might throw and what’s actually working helps,” Donaldson said. “If they pull the pitch or go outside with it, [knowing] just helps me [get ready] mentally for the next play.”
As a 15-U team last year, the Shockers won the 16-U Class B state title while playing up an age group and now have won the Class A title.
“We came out ready to play and it was just a team effort,” Taft said. “Last year we had pitching and this year we had the same exact pitching. We just focused and we wanted it bad enough. We wanted to go out and get it and we did.”
Now heading to Florida, Rawlings explained that approximately 20 teams from across the country will make up the competition that the Shockers will face and that some games will be broadcast by ESPN3.
“It’s going to be a very tough tournament and we just have to go out there and play good defense and pitch well and do the best we can,” Rawlings said.
Donaldson added: “I am so ready. Our mindset has to be on point and we have to work hard, try our best and keep our heads up no matter what. It’s just about a good mindset.”
Staying sharp while playing multiple tournaments since the late-June win, the Shockers head into Florida ready to compete and, again, not looking for vacation spots.
“We’re pretty high in confidence right now,” Taft said. “We have a lot of faith in our team and in our pitchers and our offense and defense, so we have a lot of confidence ... We have a lot of momentum and as a team, we’re excited to go down there and see different competition from different states.”